OP-ED: Social Media Isn’t Perfect, But It’s Pretty Damn Awesome

Nov. 21, 2017 / By

Image by Patrick Thompson and edited by Crystal Niebla.

All you kids do is go on your phone and distract yourselves from what is really going on. People make general statements like this on social media’s effects on individuals and society as a whole, but it’s something that has many facets and uses within itself. Just because you feel social media personally distracts you, doesn’t mean it distracts others the same way. For some, it may do the opposite and help them focus on things that are happening around the world.

But there’s no black or white here. On one hand, social media can be suspected of having so many different negative effects on people, such as envy toward others’ perceived achievements and anxiety associated with self-worth validation and  fear of negative public opinion.

One 2013 research study found that if people used Facebook more often per day, the less moment-to-moment happiness and life satisfaction they’d feel. Another study published this year, which assessed 11 social media platforms, found that young adults who used more social media had higher odds of social isolation.

While many linger on these finding, I think people overlook the good things social media offers. 

Image by opensource.com via flickr

The very site you’re reading this article on is an example. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to write about my opinions, etc., on this platform if this news outlet had not created a space for a young creative of color like myself to exist and that applies to many other uses of social networks. So many people’s lives are tied to social media, it’s how they share their art and express themselves. It’s how they get paid, find opportunities or learn about different types of people and cultures. The bottom line is that you’re in charge of the content that you consume. If you don’t like the content you’re viewing, then simply change it!

Furthermore, the idea of just consuming creative content has been increasingly viewed by some as lazy or useless, when in reality, simple things like looking at magazines or artistic images can result in someone feeling inspired and ready to create themselves. Even doing things as simple as looking at a YouTuber talk about relatable topics or taking selfies and learning to love different parts of yourself that you had trouble loving before can be liberating. One of my friends, for example, who has a darker complexion, thought she couldn’t pull off blue lipstick. After seeing some melanin-rich models on social media wear that lip color, my friend developed the boldness to try it. Social media can seriously result in a confidence boost, and I know first-hand too because that’s part of the reason why I became a photojournalist.

For a long time, I was inspired by other artists like Petra F. Collins and Liz Fang, who courageously put out unique pieces of work and didn’t care about what other people had to say.  Feeling inspired, I created my own works of photography and journalism as well as finding the strength in the vulnerability that comes with being an artist and putting yourself out there for everyone to see.

Social media is not always something us “silly teens” just use to scroll through random images. We all use this platform for different reasons, and unless the reasons harm ourselves or other people, I feel that everyone should be comfortable doing whatever they want to do and just have some fun!

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Patrick Thompson

Patrick is an artist, photographer and student at Long Beach Polytechnic High School.